You’ll probably make fun of me for admitting it, but I’m a big Adam Sandler fan. Doesn’t bother me if my opinions are judged differently because of it. I like what I like. I have my reasons. I mentioned a bunch of them here, a couple years ago. I’ll mention one more before this review is up. But in the interest of full disclosure, I have seen all of Adam Sandler’s movies to date – except for I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, which I turned off in the first fifteen minutes, and Bedtime Stories, just because.
Yeah. I’ve seen nearly all of the man’s movies. Doesn’t mean that I insist they’re all good. Not by a long shot. You can be a fan of something without blindly committing to its every aspect. (Good advice for the internet in general.)
Grown Ups isn’t one of the better ones. It’s about five guys who were friends as kids when they all played on the same basketball team, and who get together with their families for a week at a summer house when their old coach dies. Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James play the guys. Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, nobody, some old lady, and Maria Bello (respectively) play their wives. There’s an old farting grandma and a bunch of kids running around too. Colin Quinn (underrated), Tim Meadows (also underrated), and Steve Buscemi (always awesome) play the so-called bad guys. I think Norm MacDonald was in there for a second too.
I’m not sure that anyone involved put a hundred percent into this movie, so I don’t feel like putting a hundred percent into this review. If you love Sandler’s movies, you’ll see it anyway, and if you hate Sandler’s movies, you should totally lighten up but this time around I won’t argue with you too strongly.
Anyway, here are some assorted thoughts that occurred to me during Grown Ups:
· Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Kevin James – which name doesn’t quite fit?
· In an unrelated thought, I really, truly miss Chris Farley.
· Steve Buscemi, best known as a character actor in serious indie movies and crime flicks, is by far the funniest guy in the entire movie. Part of that observation is due credit to how great Steve Buscemi forever is, but the rest of it doesn’t reflect great on everyone else in the movie who’s headlined a feature comedy before.
· How come when Adam Sandler has an impossibly hot movie wife or girlfriend, it’s usually somehow believable, but when Kevin James does, you can’t help but notice and be distracted by it?
· Maria Bello is too great an actor to be so underwritten. And to be cast as wife to Kevin James.
· Salma Hayek’s boobs can talk! All I know is: Every time her boobs appeared on screen, I heard dialogue in her voice and accent – it was pretty amazing. Great trick.
· Speaking of Salma Hayek, those credits were a little startling. Do we really have to refer to her as “Salma Hayek Pinault” now? (“Pinault.” Huh-huh. Heh-heh. Huh-huh.)
· Grown Ups is one of two movies opening this weekend that was shot largely in Boston (the other one being Knight And Day). That’s not a particularly funny thought, but ah, whatever, I’ll leave it in anyway. Who needs editing – right Dennis Dugan?
· Norm MacDonald appears for exactly two quick cuts. One is an establishing shot that lasts just long enough so that you go “Is that Norm?!?” and “What a dopey hat!” and the other is a shot of his ass with his shorts pulled up like a thong. So, you know. All you Norm fans who love the man’s unusual wit and brilliant timing? You won’t want to miss this movie.
· Not enough Colin Quinn.
· Not enough Tim Meadows. But at least he gets the movie’s best hairpiece (suck it, Schneider!) and the movie’s funniest line: [To Chris Rock] “Hello, other black guy who lives here.”
· Chris Rock is maybe the greatest working comedian in America – I wonder if they even considered asking him for a little help with the writing. How do you have that guy on set and not ask him for a couple extra one-liners? Along those lines: Next time? Call Smigel, please. (Comedy-writing mega-deity.)
· They should have had Tyler Perry play the old fat farting grandma. I mean, why not, right? Wouldn’t have made the movie any more funny (could surely make it less so, in fact), but at least the box office would be good. Or hey: Eddie Murphy…
· Rule I’ve observed in thirty years of watching film comedies: The more jokes, the better. There should be at least a joke a minute. Look at Airplane: Even when the jokes are bad, it’s okay, because it primes you for laughing and prepares you for the next one. When you go a while without jokes, the movie sags. Like Kevin James’s face.
· A rule I’ve observed in thirty years of watching film comedies: Kevin James falling down does not count as a joke.
· Another rule I’ve observed in thirty years of watching film comedies: Rob Schneider’s hilarious hairpiece does not count as a joke.
· Yet another rule I’ve observed in thirty years of watching film comedies: Watching people having fun is never funny. Watching people laugh at other people’s jokes on screen is never funny. The paying audience is your audience.
· One last rule I’ve observed in thirty years of watching film comedies: Repeating the weaker jokes four or five times doesn’t make them funny.
· Weird detail I noticed: Sandler wears about three or four different college T-shirts. I started obsessing on whether his super-successful agent character was just a big fraud, who didn’t really go to Harvard OR U-Mass, and that then Paul Anderson or Judd Apatow could take over the writing and directing duties and make something way more interesting happen here.
· David Spade: Suddenly, perfect casting as Vince Neil for the eventual Motley Crue movie.
· At one point in the movie, the five guys take three canoes out on the lake. Sandler and Rock are in one, Spade and James are in the second, and Schneider gets his own canoe. At this moment I couldn’t help thinking of Lake Placid, and how this movie could definitely stand to add a giant alligator, and how it could probably stand to lose two out of three canoes.
· Where’d the guys suddenly get KFC on that island in the middle of a lake? Was it flown in by the God Of Product Placement?
· Adam Sandler smacking Rob Schneider in the face with a bag of bacon = funny. Maybe not for all the reasons they intended, but let’s take what we can get.
· You have to give Rob Schneider this: He’s always willing to go all the way in on a joke. Unfortunately, it’s almost always the wrong joke, but hey, it’s the right idea, guy.
· At least Rob Schneider was funny a lot of times on SNL though. Kevin James hasn’t made me laugh once yet. That’s not good. It’s kind of his job.
· Ending this thought-stream on a happy note: That Asian girl from The Real World is now apparently one of the hottest chicks on the planet. I momentarily hated Maya Rudolph when she stepped in front of her.
Okay, we’re almost done here. Before I wrap this up though, I was going to tell you another reason why I like Adam Sandler so much, besides the obvious reasons such as the fact that his movies are amiable and heart-in-the-right-place and non-cynical and usually make me laugh at least a few times every go-round. (All of which being good reasons, by the way, in my opinion.)
Another thing that interests me about his movies is that his filmography is starting to resemble an autobiography. There’s no other film comedian who has had such consistent power to make the movies he wants to make, and there’s no comedy auteur who has been quite so emotionally transparent, so willing to let those movies reflect his personal concerns at the time he’s made them. Who else? Seriously, who else could you name? Woody Allen? Not even close! There’s only Sandler. Look at it:
Billy Madison: Take it as the early years. Elementary school through high school.
Happy Gilmore: Angry-young-man phase. (Ends in domesticity though.)
The Wedding Singer: Getting interested in romance.
The Waterboy: Doesn’t fit my theory. I’m not a fan of that one.
Big Daddy: Getting ready for adult responsibility.
Little Nicky: Walking in dad’s shoes.
Punch-Drunk Love: I need a much longer essay to cover this one.
Mr. Deeds: Navigating life with big money.
Eight Crazy Nights: “Something my kids can watch.”
Anger Management: Making your way in the world, playing with the big boys.
50 First Dates: Again with the romance.
Spanglish: Another one I haven’t seen, but from what I know, it fits.
The Longest Yard: Bro time.
Click: Fears about mortality.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry: Unwatchable. Coincidentally, first collaboration with Kevin James.
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan: Hilarious. Great rebound. Possible growing interest in politics and world affairs?
Bedtime Stories: Haven’t seen it, but it’s another one for the kids, right?
Funny People: Concerns about legacy.
Grown Ups: Makes a little more sense now, doesn’t it?
This is a lifetime being played out in movies.
(Note: It seems like Tom Carson in GQ covered similar territory in a recent article, probably with more sophistication, but I swear I haven’t read it yet. Check it out and see if the points are similar. I will be checking it out myself one paragraph from now.)
With all of that in mind, though, the grumpy old man phase is going to be AWESOME. Picture it: Sandler and Rock, sitting at an outdoor café, watching the pretty girls go by. Shooting the shit. Rock is more caustic than ever, Sandler’s cranky and honest. Spade is there, his lech act getting way sad and way interesting. (PTA has returned to the fold to direct this movie.) Norm MacDonald makes a brief appearance, wandering by in the midst of a decades-long Kung Fu quest, long gray beard and all. Rob Schneider is there, physically at least – having passed on early due to a fatal groin injury, he’s been returned from the taxidermist, stuffed so that he can now remain an eternal mascot for Sandler while sparing the rest of us the mugging. Hell, Kevin James can be there too, now the size of a house, and he speaks only in farts.
In all seriousness, that’s a movie I can’t wait to see.